Czech support for EU accession on the decline
Popular support for accession into the European Union has fallen, according to the latest study by public opinion researcher's - STEM. Less than half of the survey's respondents would now vote 'yes,' if given the chance to express their opinion in a referendum on EU entry. However, a large percentage of Czechs still are not sure which way they would swing. Helen Belmont has more.
The latest survey is not welcome news for the politicians engineering the Czech Republic's entry into the European Union. As the date of expected accession comes ever closer, the number of Czechs who support entry has decreased by 8 per cent since a similar poll last October. I spoke with Jitka Uhrova from STEM, the agency that conducted the poll, and asked her why she thinks that support for EU accession is on the decline:
"To a certain degree, I think it's because people paid attention to the debates that surrounded EU accession, and the individual criteria for accession. I have in mind, of course, the discussion over the Free Movement of Labour for Czech citizens, and the other criteria. The second thing that could have influenced it, is that integration of our republic into the Union is now more realistic for citizens. They realise that it will influence even their personal lives. They are starting to view it more realistically and not just for its symbolic significance."
So what can we expect for the future? I asked Ms. Uhrova whether she thought the trend of disillusionment toward the European Union would continue:
"I don't dare to guess how the trend will go. It's important to note that there are a lot of people who are still undecided on how they will vote in the referendum. It depends on how these people will vote, which side they will be on. It will depend a lot on the discussion by politicians, how they will present it, whether they will concentrate on the positive aspects, or the negative aspects. The referendum is going to depend a lot on the people that are now undecided. But I don't foresee support to dramatically decrease."
Opinion polls from other EU hopefuls have shown that the Czechs are not alone in their apprehension towards integration, but Czech politicians must hope that declining trend will not continue.